Volume 9, Issue 4: Husbandry
We like to pretend that our entertainment does not have much of an impact on us, or that it only affects us in the disapproved "sex and violence" categories. But the didactic impact of our entertainment is considerable - and the understanding we have of the relationship between men and women is one of the areas most greatly affected.
At least in our part of the country a certain category of film has come to be labeled as that of "chick flick." The distinguishing characteristics of such movies are sentimental and romantic, and the development of the romantic relationship itself provides the structure of the plot. These movies may be done very well, as the recent Sense and Sensibility was, or they may be trash.
When confronted with these "chick flicks," Christian husbands usually react in one of two ways. Either they take the "a team of wild horses couldn't get me to watch this" approach, or they sit through them in a longsuffering but uncomprehending way. They do so because fair is fair, and if "the wife watches movies I like, in which things blow up with some regularity, I might as well return the favor sometimes and watch a movie in which absolutely nothing happens." The man feels (although he does not say) that if the film got any duller they would put it on public television. These two responses are usually unrelated to whether or not the movie exhibits any aesthetic excellence. All that matters is that it is a chick flick.
But more is involved. Men need to learn how to reject a certain kind of feminine entertainment for biblical reasons, and they need to learn how to receive teaching from other kinds of such entertainment, also for biblical reasons. When they reject it, it should be for the household and not just for themselves. And when they accept it, they should include themselves.
Suppose a movie is poorly-written, badly-made, sloppily-directed, and the acting makes sponges look like over-achievers. Nevertheless, the guy and girl do get together at the end in what is touted as "the feel-good movie of the year." Why do women want to watch this stuff?
The reason, oddly enough, is the same reason why many men are willing to watch pornography that is poorly-written, and etc. The sexual content interests them enough that they are willing to overlook all kinds of cinematic sins for the sake of getting what they want. Put another way, a lot of this sentimental drivel is nothing less than pornography for the emotions. And when someone is willing to put up with tremendous amounts of garbage in order to "feed" the particular need which they have, this is an indication that the need, whatever it is, is close to being pathological. It is frequently an indication of starvation.
The analogy to pornography can be taken further. Just as the immorality of pornography is not an argument against sexual activity as such, so this imbalance of romanticism is no argument against romantic stimulus and reponse, and romantic teaching and example, in its proper place. So when a film is done well, and its assumptions are consistent with the teaching of Scripture, men should do far more than sit passively through it. They come there as novices sitting at the seat of wisdom, listening to her teach. Much Ado About Nothing and Pride and Prejudice both contain things which the average male meathead needs to hear and see. And he needs to do more than merely hear - he needs to learn and apply.
For example, a woman is oriented to a man differently than a man is oriented to a woman. For the woman, their relationship occupies a central place in her thinking. This is because the woman was made for man, not man for the woman. For the man, the relationship occupies a supportive place. This is because the woman was made for man, not man for the woman. Their perspectives on the relationship they have differ. Neither the masculine nor the feminine perspective is normative; rather, the Bible's teaching on husband/wife relations is normative. But the Bible requires husbands and wives to understand themselves and one another. Part of this understanding comes from seeing what the other enjoys. Provided that the enjoyment is lawful and is not framed by an aesthetic monstrosity, such situations are a good time for learning.
Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church. I dare say one of the things that Christ does not say to the church is, "I didn't know you felt that way." The love required of husbands is a love which studies to anticipate how the wife feels. This does not mean that her feelings should govern the home - any more than the man's feelings should. It simply means that a man must love his wife intelligently. But many men do not desire to pursue such intelligent loving; they much prefer being repeatedly blindsided. "Really?"
Modern men have an awful lot to gain from this. Many things are required of us, and we must imitate them in order to incorporate them into our lives. But we cannot imitate what we do not see around us. We need a soon return to courteous masculinity, refinement of manners, and deep respect for women.